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From Claim to Fact

From Claim to Fact:
a small use case in scientific fact establishment using the Bourne corpus

Anita de Waard, Elsevier Labs/University of Utrecht.


Scientific fact is established as a community of peers accepts an authors’ claim [1]. We showcase a small case of scientific fact-creation by performing discourse analysis on the Bourne corpus, specifically by

1)   Tracing the edits that occur between the draft and final versions of the 2010 paper [2]

2)   Tracing the citations and accompanying modality dropping of claims from the 2009 paper [3].

We find, first, qualitative evidence of the mechanisms of scientific fact creation, in the establishment of author modality through successive edits of the abstract; and then an erosion of this modality as a claim gets shared, stripped of its modality markers, and manifested in the canon of facts. We show how this anecdotal evidence supports our model of scientific sensemaking [4, 5].





[1] Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. (1986). Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986. ISBN: 9780691028323.

[2] Kinnings SL,  Xie L,  Fung KH,  Jackson RM,  Xie L,  et al. 2010 The Mycobacterium tuberculosis  Drugome and Its Polypharmacological Implications. PLoS Comput Biol 6(11): e1000976. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000976 

[3] Xie L, Li J, Xie L, Bourne PE, 2009 Drug Discovery Using Chemical Systems Biology: Identification of the Protein-Ligand Binding Network To Explain the Side Effects of CETP Inhibitors. PLoS Comput Biol 5(5): e1000387. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000387

[4] de Waard, A. (2010). Realm Traversal In Biological Discourse: From Model To Experiment and back again, Workshop on Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Signalling Text Organisation (MAD 2010), March 17-20, 2010, Moissac, France.

[5] de Waard, A. and Pander Maat, H. (2009), Categorizing Epistemic Segment Types in Biology Research Articles. Workshop on Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Approaches to Text Structuring (LPTS 2009), September 21-23 2009. - to be published as a chapter in ‘Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Approaches to Text Structuring’, Laure Sarda, Shirley Carter Thomas & Benjamin Fagard (eds), John Benjamins.